Chris Bell: The right way to do college planning

I was sickened learning to gain admission to colleges via bogus athletic recruitment, all at the advice of a private college counselor.

I‘m deeply concerned that at first glance, William Rick Singer‘s company, called Edge College and Career Network, looks like it provides services and approaches that are similar to the several reputable college consulting organizations in Boulder. His website doesn‘t look all that bad, aside from a bit too much bragging for my taste. The difference comes at the point of Singer offering up special access and “side doors” for the wealthiest of clients, which can only be described as cheating and bribes. By pursuing this path, he not only stepped over the ethical line, he drove past it by miles.

To my knowledge, Singer is not involved with any of the core professional organizations in the field and it is unclear on his background or training. Clearly the guy cannot be trusted.

In light of Singer‘s guilty plea, where he admitted to breaking the law and thus also violating the ethics of the field, I would like to explain a bit more about typical training, professional memberships, ethics and approach. This field is called independent educational consulting. The two primary organizations for independent educational consultants are the Higher Education Consultants Association and The Independent Educational Consultants Association. Independent educational consultants often belong to one or the other or perhaps both.

Other organizations that dictate standards include the American School Counselor Association which focuses on college access for all students, and the National College Advocacy Group, which focuses on a balanced approach between academic and financial fit.

I only mention all of these professional organizations and training to underscore that there is a right way to go about helping kids with college planning. It is documented, trained on and certified by the groups I mention above. There is room for differences in approach to meet the personality and skills of the consultant, but in general, the approach is standard: Here is the right way to do the work of helping students understand and navigate the college planning process.

You: Conducting baseline background work with students to learn their strengths, aptitudes, and personalities.

Fit: Identifying colleges that have good academic, social, and financial fit for the student and family.

Getting in: Working with students so their best selves are presented in applications. This often means asking for revisions to essays and offering suggestions on how to describe activities.

Just to be clear: It involves writing for the student, ing admissions offices to advocate for a student, offering bribes to coaches, or cheating on SAT or ACT tests.

Those in this field believe in helping students. I think the work we do is ethical and, when done right, even noble. I will continue doing my work this way as will my colleagues in other consulting groups, and I am confident that the students we work with will continue to be successful with their college application process.

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